This week in Germantown, Maryland, it took less than a minute for a flash mob of teenagers to descend on a 7-Eleven, ransack shelves and make off with hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.They'll be figuring for a long time. Why? Because police cannot prevent flash mobs of the 7-Eleven type.
It's going to take much longer for police in Montgomery County to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.
Flash mobs exploit the two fundamental weaknesses of reliance on "police protection" -- a) presence and b) response time. The police cannot be everywhere at the same time, and when seconds count they are only minutes away.
The primary reason why flash mobs continue to occur is that the risk is much less than the reward. None of the mob are getting smacked down. None of the mob are being killed. They are virtually unopposed. The critical question is how to change the risk-reward ratio so that the risk outweighs any perceived benefit to the antisocial flash mob types.
The answer is to encourage and promote and support store owners and other private citizens to take enforcement of the law into their own hands, to protect their private property from theft and vandalism. This is the ONLY way to solve the presence and response problem.
The group of teens that attempts to rob a 7-Eleven and is set upon by the owners and law-abiding citizens before being handed over to police will no longer engage in the behaviour. The group of teens that are held at gunpoint and/or shot and wounded or killed for daring to ransack a shop will not engage in the behaviour again. What is more, even the most thick-headed miscreant will begin to understand that the risk is too great to continue such mindless crime.
Flash mobs cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be argued with. Their force must be met with equal or (preferably) overwhelming force. Or, as Ann Coulter succinctly says, flash mobs must be crushed.
The trouble is, police cannot crush flash mobs of the 7-Eleven type. Were they able to organize quickly enough and really put power to the pavement, they might manage to put down a multi-street Philly type of flash mob. But not the individual store type of flash mob. For that to be stopped, the citizens must be empowered, supported and encouraged to defend themselves and their property.
If police are not prepared to do that then all bets are off and we can expect flash mobs to become more numerous, more bold and more sophisticated.